Miletus (mī lē' təs) (Ancient Greek: Μίλητος, literally transliterated Milētos, Latin Miletus) was an ancient city on the western coast of Anatolia (in what is now Aydin Province, Turkey), near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria. Evidence of first settlement at the site has been made inaccessible by the rise of sea level and deposition of sediments from the Maeander. The first available evidence is of the Neolithic.
In the early and middle Bronze age the settlement came under Minoan influence. Legend has it that an influx of Cretans occurred displacing the indigenous Leleges. The site was renamed Miletus after a place in Crete.
The Late Bronze Age, 13th century BCE, saw the arrival of Luwian language speakers from south central Anatolia calling themselves the Carians. Later in that century the first Greeks arrived, calling themselves Achaeans. The city at that time rebelled against the Hittite Empire. After the fall of that empire the city was destroyed in the 12th century BCE and starting about 1000 BCE was resettled extensively by the Ionian Greeks. Legend offers an Ionian foundation event sponsored by a founder named Neleus from the Peloponnesus.
The Greek Dark Ages were a time of Ionian settlement and consolidation in an alliance called the Ionian League. The Archaic Period of Greece began with a sudden and brilliant flash of art and philosophy on the coast of Anatolia. The first Greek science was devised by the Milesian School of philosophy.
A gradual rise brought a level of about below present at about 5500 BP, creating several karst block islands of limestone, the location of the first settlements at Miletus. At about 1500 BCE the karst shifted due to small crustal movements and the islands consolidated into a peninsula. Since then the sea has risen 1.75 m but the peninsula has been surrounded by sediment from the Maeander river and is now land-locked. Sedimentation of the harbor began at about 1000 BCE and by 300 CE Lake Bafa had been created.
Ephorus says: Miletus was first founded and fortified above the sea by Cretans, where the Miletus of olden times is now situated, being settled by Sarpedon, who brought colonists from the Cretan Miletus and named the city after that Miletus, the place formerly being in possession of the Leleges.The legends recounted as history by the ancient historians and geographers are perhaps the strongest; the late mythographers have nothing historically significant to relate.
Millawanda is then mentioned in the "Tawagalawa letter", part of a series including the Manapa-Tarhunta letter and the Milawata letter, all of which are less securely dated. The Tawagalawa letter notes that Milawata had a governor, Atpa, who was under the jurisdiction of "Ahhiyawa" (a growing state probably in LHIIIB Mycenaean Greece); and that the town of Atriya was under Milesian jurisdiction. The Manapa-Tarhunta letter also mentions Atpa. Together the two letters tell that the adventurer Piyama-Radu had humiliated Manapa-Tarhunta before Atpa (in addition to other misadventures); a Hittite king then chased Piyama-Radu into Millawanda and, in the Tawagalawa letter, requested Piyama-Radu's extradition to Hatti.
The Milawata letter mentions a joint expedition by the Hittite king and a Luwiyan vassal (probably Kupanta-Kurunta of Mira) against Milawata (apparently its new name), and notes that Milawata (and Atriya) were now under Hittite control.
In the last stage of LHIIIB, the citadel of Pylos counted among its female slaves "Mil[w]atiai", women from Miletus.
During the collapse of Bronze Age civilisation, Miletus was burnt again - presumably by the Sea Peoples.
Miletus was one of the cities involved in the Lelantine War of the 8th century BCE.
By the 6th century BC, Miletus had earned a maritime empire but brushed up against powerful Lydia at home.
When Cyrus of Persia defeated Croesus of Lydia, Miletus fell under Persian rule. In 502 BC, the Ionian Revolt began in Naxos; and when Miletus's tyrant Aristagoras failed to recapture the island, Aristagoras joined the revolt as its leader. Persia quashed this rebellion and punished Miletus in such a fashion that the whole of Greece mourned it. A year afterward, Phrynicus produced the tragedy The Capture of Miletus in Athens. The Athenians fined him for reminding them of their loss.
It is believed that Paul stopped by Great Harbour Monument and sat on its steps, on his way back to Jerusalem by boat. He may have met the Ephesian Elders there and then bid them farewell on the nearby beach, which was recorded in the book of Acts.
One remarkable artifact recovered from the city during the first excavations of the 19th century, the Market Gate of Miletus, was transported piece by piece to Germany and currently exhibited at the Pergamon museum in Berlin. The main collection of artifacts resides in the Miletus Museum in Didim, Aydın, serving since 1973.